Agile Business Analysis – or Agile and Business Analysis?

Agile PM and Business Analysis are popular pieces of the skills puzzle within the domain of project management right now. However, they have always been there - but now the focus on them is different. What is the "foundational" aspect of these skills, and what is the "trendy" piece?

Let's take a closer look at each - Agile and Business Analysis - and analyze what they are all about.

Agile has been a trend for the past decade or so - since the creation of the Agile Manifesto. The Agile Manifesto itself applies specifically to software projects. It was designed, developed, and written by software developers who were very intimate with the specific problems pertaining to software development projects, and to spawn a movement that would solve these problems systematically. It has led to the evolution of the growing CSM certification - Certified Scrum Master - as a particular and very popular variant of Agile.

But is the agile concept really new?

And doesn't it really apply to more than software development?

A quick search for the Google definition of "agile" yields this definition:

1. able to move quickly and easily.
"Ruth was as agile as a monkey"

synonyms: nimble, lithe, supple, limber, acrobatic, fleet-footed, light-footed, light on one's feet; More
literaryfleet, lightsome

"she was as agile as a monkey"

•alert, sharp, acute, shrewd, astute, perceptive, quick-witted
"an agile mind"

antonyms: clumsy, stiff, slow, dull

•able to think and understand quickly.
"his vague manner concealed an agile mind"

2. relating to or denoting a method of project management, used especially for software development, that is characterized by the division of tasks into short phases of work and frequent reassessment and adaptation of plans.
"agile methods replace high-level design with frequent redesign"

Interestingly, Google provides two definitions: one for the generic, longstanding meaning for the word "agile", and the other for the much more recent "agile project management".

The key point here is that there is a longstanding meaning to agile, and the characteristic of agility, versus the more recent and trendy "agile project management", or more specifically, agile software development. Indeed, in organizations, agile can be, and often is, applied across a wide variety of applications, only one of which is software development. Other functions where agility clearly helps include sales and marketing, research and development, manufacturing, service, purchasing and acquisition, and more.

The bottom line is that specific agile tools and techniques are fine, but developing a foundation agile mindset will make you more versatile and effective anywhere.

Business Analysis
Business analysis also has been a trend, for a little less than a decade, give or take. The trend relates to the formalization of business analysis as a discipline unto itself, and the creation of a certification, much like the CSM. The formalization has a way of making it seem new...but hasn't business analysis been around a long time? Haven't people analyzed business problems and developed solutions over many decades now? I would argue that there is a "foundational" component and a "trendy" component to business analysis, just as there is for Agile.

Here's the Google-provided definition for Business Analysis:

Business Analysis is the practice of enabling change in an organizational context, by defining needs and recommending solutions that deliver value to stakeholders. The set of tasks and techniques that are used to perform business analysis are defined in A Guide to the Business Analysis Body of Knowledge® (BABOK®Guide).

The BABOK Guide is a product of the International Institute of Business Analysis (IIBA).

This definition of business analysis, surprisingly, differs from the definition of agile in that it does not provide two alternative definitions; only the formalized definition is provided.

However, I still think there are two approaches that you should consider for business analysis: one for the formal discipline of business analysis, and one for a more trendy aspect. The definition provided is sort of a hybrid!

Yes, the definition provided by Google is kind of a combination of foundational and trendy. The IIBA has responded to the need for a more formalized definition for business analysis - but business analysis has been around for a long time. The definition does focus more on the software aspect, as it is somewhat requirements-intensive. However, the idea of analyzing business situations and opportunities for better ways has been around as long as commerce itself! It's just gotten more sophisticated and formalized.

So, the idea is not so much that the IIBA approach, but that formalizing it into a certification is somewhat trendy.

But perhaps what is really trendy with Business Analysis today is the tie-in with Agile. Some call it "Agile Business Analysis".

Business Analysis and Agile - or Agile Business Analysis
Today I am seeing trends where these two disciplines are being grouped together into "Agile Business Analysis". I understand that Agile has gained a lot of momentum - and that Business Analysis is a key aspect of it.

However, if you really want to get to know business analysis, are you better off learning it specifically coupled with the agile method, and as specifically applied to software development? Or are you better off learning it as a foundation discipline, where it does not matter if agile methods are being used at all? And if you learn it as such, wouldn't you then be better off being able to switch between agile and other approach you want, but bring the core best practices of business analysis with you?

My premise is that you are best served by learn agile methodologies and business analysis separately - ideally after building a strong project management skill base. These are foundational skills in the field. Once you master them separately, you can adapt them to any workplace environment or challenges as needed.

This is the ultimate in being agile!

Master Agile and Business Analysis...and you'll automatically get Agile Business Analysis and more.
Related training:

Certified Business Analysis Professional (CBAP®) training

Agile Certified Practitioner (PMI-ACP) training

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